August 6, 2016
Student Samantha Courtney overcame financial and familial roadblocks to succeed at JCCC
When Samantha Courtney turned 16, she worked as a cashier at a supermarket. It wasn’t a bad job, she explained. The company treated her well. She had the job throughout high school.
Still…she looked at a coworker and saw herself in 20 years, still standing in the same spot, saying the same things. She was going to college, she decided, and she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way.
Samantha shared her story at the Johnson County Community College’s annual scholarship dinner, hosted by the JCCC Foundation. As a scholarship winner, stories of perseverance are as common as chicken breast on rice pilaf. Everyone in the audience knows they are supposed to listen attentively and clap politely.
Something else happened when Samantha spoke, explained Adrienne Wilson, events and communications director for the Foundation. People were visibly moved by what they heard. “There was not a dry eye in the house,” she said. “I’d read (her speech) a million times and still cried my eyes out when she gave it.”
Why the tears?
Samantha said, “As a child, I never had a positive figure in my life to encourage me to go to college and find the career that I loved.”
Family issues, Samantha said, was why she went into foster care. Thankfully, her boyfriend’s parents took her in and helped her find the path to her dream career.
“Having them at my high school graduation really meant the world to me.” Samantha said. “They have been there for me every step of the way.”
A chance to dream…and work
Even before graduating, Samantha enrolled in College Now, taking college classes while she was still in high school. She began her full-time studies at JCCC with 16 credits already completed – a full semester ahead of the average incoming freshman.
Since she was supporting herself, right out of high school, Samantha needed some help paying for school. Her boyfriend’s parents have helped her find scholarships, and they continue to help her with whatever obstacle stands in her way.
“It’s really not that hard; you just have to work really hard at it,” she said. That hard work included 20 credit hours in her spring semester as well as a position as a JCCC student admissions ambassador and membership in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
“Yeah, that is pretty crazy,” she said, smiling. “But I have worked too hard for this just for someone to tell me I can’t do it.”
Samantha said she wants to “be the change” in the system. She’s looking for jobs in nursing– “something to help other people.”
Samantha said she greatly appreciates her scholarship, but she doesn’t want to keep using her past to define her future. “My past was the past, and my future is as bright as I want to make it,” she said.
“Maybe it’s because of the things I’ve been through that I know how to lead, to take on adversity, and achieve my goals. And I’m not alone. JCCC has always believed in me, even when I was in high school.“Yes, I have had to overcome many obstacles that most 18-year-olds never have to do, but it only made me stronger,” she said. “You can use the past as an excuse, or you can use it to show how you overcame those roadblocks.”